Posts tagged ‘Arab-Israeli War’

09/20/2011

Palestine: What Pat Buchanan Thinks

Commentator Pat Buchanan’s book Where the Right Went Wrong (2004) includes a section on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, which served as a basis for this article about Palestine.

Buchanan’s book explains that during WWI, British Lord Balfour decreed: “his Majesty’s government looks with favor upon the establishment of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine.” After the British Army seized Palestine from Turkey in 1917, they received a mandate from the League of Nations to govern it, and remained until militant Jews, in the Stern Gang and Irgun, used terrorist tactics to drive them out in 1948.

After Israeli independence in 1948, and particularly since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, negative feelings about the U.S. rose to new highs in the Islamic world. Americans need to listen to what they say about us so we can learn why they hate us.

Arab and Islamic peoples universally resent our one-sided reflexive support for Israel. We use a double standard when dealing with Israel and Arabs. We give Israel aid, but allow them to defy UN Resolutions, seize Arab land, and deny Palestinian rights. Americans are not hated for who we are; we are hated for what we do. It is not our principles, but rather our policies.

When President Bush took power in 2001, the Neo-Cons, many of whom were Jewish-American with strong emotional ties to Israel, were put in charge of U.S. Middle East Policy. Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle saw U.S. and Israeli interests as the same. Since Israel was unable to remove threats to their homeland, they wanted the U.S. to disarm their neighboring states. They wanted America to establish permanent military bases in the Mideast.

The U.S. was attacked on 911, because our Foreign Policy supports Israel and the fundamentalist Likud regime. Buchanan said: the terrorists of 911 came over here, because we were over there. Since Israel and the U.S. could not be confronted directly, terrorism was used, as it is the only weapon they had.

The Palestinian case must be resolved, because as Buchanan said, no amount of force can keep an unwilling population in subjugation indefinitely. Unless we change, we are headed for endless conflict in the Islamic world.

While Israel must withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, the problem is America is no longer an honest broker, because we sit with Israel and have a compulsive need to provide their defense. The U.S. has embraced a neo-imperial pro-Israeli foreign policy the Founding Fathers would have seen as a breach of faith.

The U.S. needs to pull back from the Middle East, Buchanan said. We must stop volunteering to fight their wars, since such a foreign policy does not serve our interests. He said America needs a foreign policy made in the United States, and not in Tel-Aviv, or at the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

05/24/2011

Arab-Israeli 1967 War In Review

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War started as Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel swept through the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and on to the Suez Canal, where they broke a blockade by Egypt, in the Gulf of Aqaba, and at the Port of Elath. Following the war, Israel occupied the Sinai (Egypt), the Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and the West Bank (Jordan). Up to 250,000 Palestinians became refugees.

Israel was censured by the UN Assembly (99-0, 20 abstentions). The UN Security Council found the taking of land by force illegal, and ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242, 1967). The U.S. also asked Israel to withdraw, and barred the use of U.S. economic aid in the occupied areas. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded by Yasir Arafat to resist Israel.

Israel ignored the UN, the U.S., the PLO, and international law, and started re-settling Jewish families in Arab Jerusalem, known as the Old City. The UN warned against changing the legal status of Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252, 1968). They reminded Israel it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298, 1971). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel to return occupied East Jerusalem (1971).

Israel instead defiantly proceeded with 44 new settlements in the occupied territories, all started since 1967. 15 were in the Golan Heights, 15 in the West Bank, and 14 in Sinai and Gaza (1972).

Things changed in 1972 following a bombing raid, when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council Resolution censuring Israel. Since then, the U.S. vetoed another 40 odd resolutions critical of Israel. This explains why the Arabs and Muslims dislike U.S. foreign policy.

The Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, mainly because Israel had superior firepower, supplied by the U.S. The UN nevertheless continued to demand an Israeli withdrawal (Res. 344, 1973).

In 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Begin proved a withdrawal to the 1967 borders could be accomplished. During the Egyptian-Israeli peace process, Egyptian leader Sadat insisted on an Israel withdraw from the occupied Sinai. After Prime Minister Begin, Sadat, and President Carter, signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979), Israeli soldiers and civilians withdrew, and peace has existed along the Sinai border ever since.

But the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, remained occupied. The UN criticized settlements in the occupied areas, saying they violated the rights of civilians, under the Geneva Convention (Res. 446, 452, 1979, Res. 465, 1980).

When Israeli law was imposed upon Syrians in the occupied Golan Heights, the UN declared the act null and void, citing the Geneva Convention (Res 497, 1981).

In 1985, Arafat said the PLO would accept the Jewish state’s right to exist, if Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders. The UN again called for a withdrawal, but Israel refused (Res. 592, 1986).

The UN deplored the killing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and other occupied areas, in violation of the Geneva Convention (Res. 605, 1987). They also ordered Israel to stop deporting Palestinians (Res. 636, 641, ’89; Res. 694, ’91; Res. 726, 799, ‘92).

Another break came in 1994, when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin proved peace was possible, as he and President Clinton reached a agreement with Jordan (1994). After Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist (1995), Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party came to power, and the peace process stalled, as Netanyahu lifted a ban on new settlements (1996).

Israel later built a Wall in and around occupied Jerusalem, which the International Court of Justice said was a de facto annexation, in violation civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions. (2004).

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it appeared that more progress was being made, but peace didn’t really have a chance, since Israel closed off all land, sea, or air access to the Gaza Strip, and denied Palestinians of a right to exist with their own leaders.

When President Obama suggested a withdrawal to the 1967 border in the West Bank, Netanyahu rudely lectured him, saying the 1967 line is indefensible. The truth is the current border is indefensible, as it has led to nothing but conflict for 44 years. Netanyahu’s fear-based approach will never work. Once the Palestinians no longer have a reason to be angry about an illegal occupation, only then may Israel enjoy peace and security. Since Netanyahu is unwilling to use the 1967 line, it’s time for a new Israeli leader, preferably one who listens more, and lectures less.

05/23/2011

Obama’s Historic Mideast Speech

President Obama delivered a historic speech on May 19, 2011, in which he first addressed the two wars President Bush started, by saying 100,000 troops have already returned from Iraq, and U.S. soldiers and will soon be coming home from Afghanistan.

Obama next referred to the peaceful changes in Tunisia and Egypt, during the Arab Spring, and the ongoing revolts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. He reaffirmed U.S. support for self-determination, the freedoms of speech and religion, peaceful assembly, equality for men and women, and voting rights. He said journalists must be respected, and an open Internet access must be allowed, since legitimate democracy needs an informed citizenry.

Obama condemned Libya’s Col. Qaddafi for launching a war against his own people; advised Syria’s Assad to stop shooting at demonstrators; and asked President Saleh of Yemen to follow through on his commitment to transfer power.

While Obama reasserted a U.S. commitment to Bahraini security, he boldly admonished the royal family for using brute force, making mass arrests of Shiites, and for destroying their Mosques. He told them to release political prisoners and engage in dialogue.

Finally, Obama showed great courage, as he suggested that Israel stop building illegal settlements, and end their longstanding occupation of Palestine, by withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders.

In his historic speech, Obama lamented: “The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate…The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome… The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace…Endless delay won’t make the problem go away.”

Obama told Israel and the world, the Palestinians have suffered “the humiliation of occupation,” and have not lived “in a nation of their own…The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.” Obama noted “Israeli settlement activity continues,” as he bravely suggested the coordination of a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces…”

Obama simultaneously warned the Palestinians they will never realize independence by denying the right of Israel to exist, as he said: “Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.”

Obama correctly concluded a lasting peace will involve two states, Israel, as a Jewish state, and Palestine, as the homeland for the Palestinians. This is almost exactly what the UN has been saying for 44 years: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

During the past 44 years of violence, Israel has illegally occupied Palestine, and it’s about time a strong American President directly suggested giving peace a chance by retreating to the 1967 borders. It is not only the right solution, it’s the only one that has a chance.

04/13/2011

Gaza and Israel: What’s It All About?

The news again reported that Israeli aircraft and tanks pounded the Gaza Strip in response to a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli bus. Although we have heard this kind of news for the past 63 years, many still have no idea why the Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting each other for so long.

The Gaza Strip and Israel both occupy an area in the Mideast that was previously known as Palestine. It was ruled for 400 years by the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1518-1918). In WWI, as the Turks were about to surrender, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration, in which he promised to give the Jewish people a national homeland in Palestine, even though the overwhelming majority of people living there were Arabs (1917).

After Turkey surrendered, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern Palestine (1920). The English in turn gave the Jews of Europe permission to settle among the Arabs of Palestine. As the percentage of Jews in Palestine rose from 11% in 1922 to 29% in 1939, opposition from the Arab Muslims grew.

After WWII, upon the disclosure of the atrocities against the Jews in Europe, momentum developed for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The UN partitioned the British mandate in Palestine into two areas, one Jewish, and one Arab (1947). The Palestinians however rejected it, and a civil war began (1947-48).

As the British were about to leave Palestine, Israel declared independence, and triggered the 1st Arab-Israeli War (1948-49). The Arab countries around Palestine tried to stop the creation of Israel, but failed. Israel seized land that had been assigned to the Arabs and made refugees out of 700,000 Palestinians. Following the 1949 Armistice, the UN recognized Israel as a nation-state, but many Arabs refused to acknowledge the new country. After another Arab-Israeli War (1967), Israel built settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of several UN Resolutions.

Progress was made later as self-rule was granted in Gaza (1993) and Israel transferred some control to the Palestinian National Authority (1994). Although Israel later re-entered Gaza during an Intifada (1999-00), they withdrew again when Mahmud Abbas was elected Palestinian Authority president (2005).

Israel however continued to confine the Palestinians of Gaza by maintaining strict controls over their maritime, air, and land borders. One major complaint today is that the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza are effectively prisoners in their own land. The border controls have made their economy desperate at times, which explains why the Palestinians continue to lash out at Israel.

Another complaint is the refusal of Israel to let the Palestinians choose their own leaders, without consequence. When elections were held in 2006, Hamas won, but Israel refused to accept the outcome, even though the process was free, fair and democratic.

Over the last 40 years, the UN Security Council has not acted to correct the situation, because the Israeli lobby controls the U.S. Congress, through campaign contributions supplied by special interest groups. The U.S. vetoed 42 UN Resolutions critical of Israel since 1972, and there is little hope the U.S.-Israeli arrangement will change any time soon. Even the 911 attacks, which were the direct result of the unconditional U.S. support for Israel, did not wake up the American public.

So the violence in the Middle East continues. Disproportionate air and ground attacks are made in response to occasional rocket fire from Gaza, and nothing ever changes. Hopefully, someday, the people in the Mideast themselves will see that the tactics of the past have not worked, and that they need a new approach.

03/31/2011

Syria and Israel: Solve Golan Heights

Internal politics in Syria is now getting a lot of attention. For the past 40 years, the country has been ruled by the Assad family. Al-Assad was chosen president in 1971 and ruled for 29 years. Bashar Assad, his son, started in 2000 and has served for 11 years.

While change may soon come after 40 years of one-family rule, there is an even more important international issue that has been festering for the past 44 years that must be addressed by Syria and Israel. It is an issue that can and should be solved, soon after there is a change in domestic Syrian politics.

Syria shares a border with Israel. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel invaded Syria and occupied the Golan Heights. Thousands of Syrians were driven from their homes and became refugees. The UN condemned the taking of the Golan Heights and called on Israel to return the occupied territories (UN Res. 242).

In the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Arab troops from as far away as Morocco assembled to open a Syrian Front against Israel in an attempt to retake the Golan Heights. Syria demanded the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. A UN Disengagement Observer Force supervised a ceasefire (1974).

Israel announced in 1981 it was annexing the Golan Heights and that it would impose Israeli law upon the people living there. Their action was declared null and void by the UN, under the Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of civilians, living under the rule of an occupying power.

To this day, the occupation continues and the settlements remain. After 44 years, the problem has not been resolved and it cannot simply be ignored, or swept under the rug. They only way Israel may enjoy a truly lasting peace is to come to terms with Syria.

A peace treaty with Syria can be made. Israel made peace with Egypt in 1978, with the help of Jimmy Carter. During the Clinton Administration in 1994, Israel made peace with Jordan, due to King Hussein’s cooperation. A peace treaty between Syria and Israel was nearly reached in 2000. Soon, the time will come to get it done.

President Obama is the right middle-man to broker the deal. What needs to happen is for Americans, particularly the friends of Israel, to put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party. They need to be told in no uncertain terms to remove the settlements from the Golan Heights, and to give the land back to Syria, so that a lasting peace may be implemented.